Still working on a dream
It's been quite a week...
- After my recent (ironic) offer of help, Mitt Romney pulled his socks up and won in Michigan, Arizona and Washington. "Super Tuesday" (6 March) will be his biggest test so far. But just to make my position clear: I believe and hope that Barack Obama will beat Romney (or whoever) in November.
- Eurozone unemployment hit a 15-year high of 10.7 per cent (nearly 17 million people).
- Controversy raged over the €530 billion that the European Central Bank lent for three years at one per cent to 800 banks under its Long Term Refinancing Operation (LTRO).
- Germans rightly got angry about the €199,000-a-year pension to be paid in perpetuity to their disgraced ex-president Christian Wulff after less than two years in office.
But let's move on to more important matters: Bruce Springsteen's new studio album, the 17th of his 40-year career and the first since Working on a Dream in 2009.
Wrecking Ball is a continuation of Springsteen's lifelong mission, as he said at a recent press conference in Paris, to judge "the distance between American reality and the American dream". Nobody does this better than "The Boss", now 62.
The first track, "We take care of our own" is quintessential Springsteen: delightfully ambiguous, it works both at the personal and the political level. Backed by a mini-orchestra, the E Street Band performed the song at the recent Grammy awards. Listen here, watch out for Paul McCartney, Chris Martin and Taylor Swift enjoying it, and see if you can resist joining in with the "hey heys" at the end.
With the chorus, "Wherever this flag's flown / We take care of our own", it promises to be the most misinterpreted song since "Born in the USA " in 1984. Ronald Reagan and many others mistook the anthem for primitive jingoism rather than the harsh criticism that it was of post-Vietnam America.
In both songs, the key message is in the verses not the chorus, forcing fans to engage their brains (yes, even for rock music). This time, Springsteen tells us that, "From Chicago to New Orleans / From the muscle to the bone / From the shotgun shack to the Superdome / There ain't no help, the cavalry stayed home". Got it?
Many of the other new songs are angry or sad comments on modern economic life, including the recent banking crisis:
- Easy money: "And all them fat cats, they'll just think it's funny";
- Death to my hometown: "Send the robber barons straight to hell";
- This depression: "I've been down, but never this down";
- Wrecking ball: "Hold tight to your anger and don't fall to your fears".
But along with the anger and sadness, Springsteen, as usual, offers rock 'n' roll redemption, for example, through the uplifting "Land of hope and dreams" and the irresistible "American Land", a eulogy to the country's immigrant history ("They came across the water a thousand miles from home / With nothing in their bellies but the fire down below").
Unlike in 2008, Springsteen won't be campaigning for Obama in November, though he remains a supporter. And yet again, he has provided the soundtrack to the contradictions at the heart of America and its dream. His latest tour starts in Atlanta on 18 March and hits Europe in May.